Alex Kahl, also known as “der-probefahrer.de” reports for us from the Rallye Monte Carlo des Energies Nouvelles.
My name is Alex. Here on the blog I want to tell you about my impressions, and over there on Facebook and Twitter you’re a bit more involved instead of just … you know what I mean. There I will be reporting to you about the stages until Sunday as best I can from the track.
Things were going at full power from the start. Into the hotel – a brief look out the window and immediately I discovered the Ampera I’ll be driving tomorrow from Annecy-le-Vieux to Monaco. For the moment, however, I’m not allowed to go near it – I was immediately instructed to go over and get into the car of Hanns-Werner Wirth and Daniel Riesen. And off we went on a quick photo tour.
Nervous? Me? Sitting in the car of the three-times winner of the classic Eifel Rallye, who has to drive for positions tomorrow? Not in the slightest But I did get jittery for the first few meters. Especially as the distance measurement unit was presumably already calibrated.
Thorsten, our photographer, handed me a radio, asking me “Did you ever do car-to car-photos?” My somewhat non-committal “Eeehm, ah, well, yeah” presumably conveyed adequately how uncertain I was about whether my little photo tours up to now would be sufficient to meet his requirements. “Just do what I tell you over the radio, it’ll be fine.”
Anyone who has ever travelled in France will be familiar with the signs. “RAPPEL!” it says, on a red triangular sign at the side of the road with an exclamation mark at the centre. What it actually means is: “We’ve built in a small surprise for all those people who used to enjoy watching ‘The Fall Guy’.” Ski jumps, to be precise. What we call traffic calming ramps in the 30-kilometer zones back home, are here launching platforms made to blend in with the Alpine landscape. Good that Thorsten had warned me. Drive too fast over one of those, and the front apron gets into a real scrape.
So off we went up the Col Buffon. Unfortunately we didn’t make it quite all the way to the summit. Far enough, however, to make our ears pop from the altitude. Thorsten jumped into a ditch and got some shots of the car driving. Before we knew it, 1 ½ hours had passed, and we drove back to the car park. The car had to go for inspection.
I took that opportunity to talk to Hanns-Werner Wirth, who explained a few things to me about the regularity rallye. “From the very start we drive off fast in order to get up to the average which we then have to maintain.” Average here means the speed average. Which in this rallye may not exceed 49.5 km/h – otherwise the course would have to be closed off to normal traffic.
Every 100 meters the average is re-calculated and the driver – in this case Hanns-Werner – has to develop a feel for how much faster he will have to go before a curve, in order to driver more slowly through the curve and then get back up to the average as fast as possible. The drivers don’t know, of course, when and where the average is measured and evaluated on the course.
What does rallye-ready mean?
You’d asked this question here on the blog. The car is a normal serial car. No racing tires, performance enhancement or anything like that. Tomorrow it is not about speed. Rather, a company, which otherwise also builds cars for the really fast WRC and IRC rallies, has equipped the car with diverse features. Rapid-action jack, battery powered screwdrivers for a quick tire change – all safely stowed away of course. And the BluNik distance measurement unit was installed by the guys, as the technician Jean-Nicolas explained.
He also explained all of the things that happen at the technical inspection: The driver and car data are recorded. CO2 value, weight and dimensions are all checked. They also make sure that everything is in accordance with the regulations and carry out a mini car test. Lights, indicators and horn are checked. Some of the vehicles then went directly to the Parc fermé – our number 27 was allowed to park alongside them for photos.
I guess that the organizer will fill the car again before the start and then the tank will be sealed. Topping up is forbidden, as is recharging the batteries. That is to say, you can do it to avoid being left stranded, but it costs penalty time.
This is why some of the purely electric cars will not be appearing on the long 500 kilometer stage. If I understand correctly, the only fully electric range-extender cars driving tomorrow are the various Ampera and a Fisker Karma. If you happen to see a Fisker Karma standing around, take a look at the buttons on the steering wheel. They ought to look familiar. Especially if you are standing right beside an Ampera and can check.